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Friday, March 13, 2009

"We're hiring: New drive for vocations in diocese"

From the New Ross Standard

BOOKLETS, leaflets, DVDs, CDs, prayer cards and even Facebook will be among the means used by the Diocese of Ferns to spread the word about the priesthood as it seeks to bolster the dwindling numbers of priests in Co. Wexford.

'Is God Calling You?' is the question that was being asked as the Ferns Diocesan Vocations Programme was officially launched by Bishop Denis Brennan at Bride Street Church in Wexford last week.

The position in the diocese at the moment and the work that will be undertaken by the eight strong Vocations Team was outlined by Fr. Joe McGrath, who is joined on the team by Fr. Jim Finn, (Vocations Director), Fr. Gerry O'Leary, Fr. Roger O'Neill, Fr. Jim Doyle, Fr. Tom Kehoe, Fr. Odhran Furlong and Fr. Brian Whelan.

At the moment there are 89 priests working in the Diocese of Ferns who were ordained here and six from outside the diocese. This is down from 110 in 1981.

The challenges facing the diocese are reflected by the number of retired priests, which now stands at 17, compared to just three in 1981.

The age profile is also worrying as the majority of the priests working the diocese were ordained in the 1950s (5), '60s (25) and '70s (19). Seventeen priests were ordained in the 1980s, 18 in the '90s, but just five have been ordained since 2000.

At the moment just one young man from Co. Wexford, James Cullen from Castlebridge, is training to become a priest. However, the diocese has also accepted an application from Pat Duffy from Co. Wicklow, a former teacher and a late vocation.

Fr. McGrath acknowledged that the diocese was in 'a difficult position', but determined to get on with things. 'We're not interested in restoring the past. We want to prepare for the future,' he said.

In an effort to reach as many people as possible the diocese also has CDs, DVDs, posters, bookmarks and will be using its website – www.ferns.ie – and a new Facebook group, to be established by Fr. Furlong.

'Our idea is to get as much information out there to young people about what a priest does,' said Fr. McGrath, adding that they will also be liaising with teachers and going to schools to talk about vocations.

Officially launching the programme, Bishop Denis Brennan 'a vocation is a mysterious thing, an affair of the heart'.

'It's partly a call, partly a response, but we can never fully own it or explain it,' said Bishop Brennan, adding that he hoped the vocations programme would 'reach and touch many, many people'.

The Bishop acknowledged that while they are one of the few organisations 'hiring' in the midst of the current recession, he would hope that's not a reason anyone would have for joining the priesthood. 'We'd like people to come to us because of who we are and what we do,' he said.

Fr. O'Leary stressed that when it comes to recruiting it will be a case of 'quality not quantity', pointing out the rigourous acceptance process for would-be priests in the diocese.

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